UK takes ‘the trouble out of travel’ ahead of half-term getaway

Hundreds of thousands of people are embarking on foreign trips as the relaxation of travel rules coincides with the school holiday.

11 February 2022

The Government is “taking the trouble out of travel” by easing restrictions as the half-term getaway begins, the aviation minister said.

Robert Courts said the end of coronavirus testing for people arriving in the UK who are fully vaccinated was “a long time coming”.

Hundreds of thousands of people are embarking on foreign trips as the relaxation of travel rules coincides with the school holiday.

Turkey, Egypt and Portugal are among the most popular short-haul destinations, while departures to the US state of Florida, Dubai, Mexico and the Caribbean have sold well for longer-haul holidays, according to travel trade organisation Abta.

Ski resorts in France, Italy and Switzerland are also in demand.

The UK’s rules for arriving travellers were eased from 4am on Friday.

People who are fully vaccinated no longer need to take a post-arrival lateral flow test, which typically cost about £20 each.

The requirement for unvaccinated arrivals to self-isolate has been dropped, but they still need to take tests.

All arrivals must continue to complete a passenger locator form.

Mr Courts told LBC radio: “This has been a long time coming.

“We’ve had a very difficult time both for the travel industry and for people who rely on travel – people who need to go on holiday, people who need to work on their businesses, people who haven’t seen their friends and family for so long.

“And so this has been a long road but due to the success of the vaccination programme, I am really glad to be able to bring you this news this morning that we are taking the trouble out of travel.

“We are making it much simpler for people to be able to get about, to go on holiday and to see all those friends.”

Stansted Airport told Abta it is expecting about 200,000 passengers to depart between Friday and February 18.

Other airports to provide figures for the half-term getaway include Gatwick (186,000 passengers), Manchester (160,000 passengers), Luton (55,000 passengers), Bristol (55,000 passengers) and East Midlands (17,000 passengers).

Airline and tour operator Jet2 said bookings over the past four weeks for half-term trips were 30% higher than during the same period in 2020, which was before the pandemic hit the aviation industry.

Chief executive Steve Heapy said: “We have a programme of very busy flights taking off to destinations across the Mediterranean, Canary Islands and best ski resorts in Europe, and bookings have been flying in over the past few weeks.

“Over the past two years we have said that demand would come roaring back once travel started to return to normal, and that is very much the case.”

Sean Doyle, chief executive of British Airways, also welcomed the changes but added: “We hope that other countries will soon catch up with the UK’s pragmatic approach.”

A poll of 2,000 UK consumers commissioned by Abta indicated that 64% of families with children under 16 say the limited opportunities to travel during the pandemic have made their holidays more important to them than before.

Heathrow airport
Passenger numbers have been increasing as countries open their borders and ease restrictions (PA)

The travel association’s director of communications Graeme Buck said: “Today’s changes to the travel rules are the start of a new chapter for the travel industry’s recovery.

“Testing has been one of the biggest barriers to travel, so it’s hugely welcome that the process of travelling abroad is now much cheaper and easier for millions of UK holidaymakers.”

Cross-Channel train operator Eurostar said more than 125,000 people are booked to travel between the UK and the Continent during the school holiday.

The busiest day will be Friday, when more than 16,000 passengers are booked to travel. Several services are sold out.

UK holidaymakers travelling abroad must still follow the coronavirus regulations that apply at their destination.

Spain’s requirement for children over 12 to be fully vaccinated led many UK families to cancel plans to visit the Mediterranean country over half-term.

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